What was supposed to be the biggest night in K-Pop history ended on a disappointing note and a performance which barely consoled the broken hearts of eager fans. The seven-member South Korean group, Bangtan Sonyeondan (BTS), made history by becoming the first ever Korean act to receive a Grammy nomination and perform their own song on the Grammy stage - a feat which has cemented their legacy as South Korea's most influential and promising artistes. Their first ever completely English hit single, "Dynamite", was nominated for the 63rd Grammy Awards in November 2020 for the "Best Pop Duo/Group Performance" category. "Dynamite" is a song which came out at a time when the world needed it the most, bringing a funky, up-beat rhythm to our lives.
But the Grammys are a double-edged sword. Historically, The Recording Academy, the powerhouse behind the Grammys, have been known to overlook pop artistes in favour of more stereotypically classical artistes. Even after years of hard work and breaking countless records, most artistes never even get to see a Grammy nomination in their entire careers, let alone perform at the Grammy stage.
But the true controversy around the Grammys lies in the fact that they say they reward populism over artistic integrity, but do they really? With various allegations being aimed at The Grammys, some started speculating that BTS were being used as the token Asian group to fill up the diversity quota. So, fans were disappointed but not surprised when BTS did not end up winning the "Best Group Performance" category after all, losing to Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga's "Rain On Me".
BTS, being the current spearhead of the K-pop Hallyu Wave, are unfortunately no strangers to negative criticism and casual racism. Having faced countless backlash and not-so-subtle threats, they are intimately aware of the dark side of being public figures and the ugly rear of stardom. One such recent incident of blatant racism and xenophobia was initiated by German Radio show host, Matthias Matuschik, who compared BTS to the deadly Covid-19 virus.
He described BTS as "some crappy virus that hopefully there will be a vaccine for soon as well" and slandered the group by saying that in order to atone for their supposedly horrible song cover, they "will be vacationing in North Korea for the next 20 years." He then dug his own grave deeper by trying to justify his racist comments by saying "I have nothing against South Korea, you can't accuse me of xenophobia only because this boyband is from South Korea... I have a car from South Korea. I have the coolest car around." Celebrities are using BTS as a scapegoat to further their own careers and gain some internet clout, not thinking about the extremely dangerous consequences of such acts. After all, any publicity is good publicity, right?
Comments like Matuschik's only perpetuates the harmful Anti-Asian movement known as "Yellow-Terror" which have been prevalent for ages. The Yellow Terror (otherwise known as the "Yellow-Peril" or "Yellow-Specter") is a racist colour-metaphor which represents East Asian peoples as an existential danger to the Western world, dehumanising our entire race. Since last year when the coronavirus spread all across the world, having been originated from Wuhan, China, rampant ignorance and misinformation about the virus has led to a drastic increase in hate-crimes and violence against Asians all across the world. The Asian Community are becoming victims to not only racist and xenophobic remarks daily, but are also being physically attacked, or even killed, just for being Asian.
It is truly a wonder that despite all this negativity, BTS has proven time and time again that hard work, dedication, and perseverance can pay off. Their charm lies in their endeavour to destigmatise mental health and speak up against bullying, racism, capitalism, burn-out and many other important issues through their music which transcends language, space and time. Their fans will always be by their side, cheering them on through the highs and supporting them through the lows.
Despite it all, BTS are causing ripples and creating new goals no one even thought possible. The Grammys are just a small stepping stone in BTS's path to the top, and the world is excited to see what they will achieve next.